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Monday After: Four Things to Know After Kentucky vs. Missouri

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UK Athletics

It wasn’t pretty, but the Kentucky Wildcats won.

That has been the description of several win in the Mark Stoops era, and Saturday was no different.

The Wildcats couldn’t have got off to a much better start after pushing Missouri to a three and out, and following it up with a sub-four minute touchdown drive. However, Kentucky went scoreless to close out the half only up 7-3.

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In the third quarter, the Wildcats were able to extend the lead to 14-3 and looked to be in control of the game, but that did not last long.

Missouri responded with 14 unanswered points and briefly took the lead halfway through the fourth quarter. With no momentum, Will Levis and the Wildcats drove down the field, overcoming an overturned fumble by Chris Rodriguez, to recapture the lead and score the touchdown that ultimately won the game.

Let’s take a closer look.

Going bowling, again

With the win over Missouri, the Kentucky Wildcats are going to a bowl game for the seventh straight season. This is the longest streak in program history (5, 2006-2010), and the Wildcats will be playing for their 5th straight bowl victory.

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Where could the Wildcats end up? Here are the latest projections.

247Sports: Music City Bowl, Duke vs. Kentucky
CBS Sports: Music City Bowl, vs. Wisconsin
ESPN: Bonagura: Music City Bowl, vs. Kentucky; Schlabach: TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, vs. Florida

Will Levis is tough as nails

No injury information has been made public, but Will Levis is clearly playing hurt and it could be seen in the game plan and in his play.

Prior to the season, it was a point to limit Levis from leaving the pocket and running the ball. In the previous three seasons – dating back to Penn State – Levis has rushed for at least 200 yards every year. Yet, this season Levis doesn’t even have positive rushing yards (-107).

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With that said, Levis has run the ball at times early this season, but that part of his game has become non-existent in recent weeks as injuries have affected him. I don’t expect that to change, as Levis was put in a walking boot right after the game.

Will Levis was back in the walking boot after the game, and Rich Scangarello confirmed UK QB is not practicing at full speed right now. Levis said the injuries have affected his mobility most. Seems like that contributed to a couple of the sacks today.
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Despite not being at full health, Levis still completed 68% of his passes and threw for three touchdowns, including the game-winner to Dane Key.

His latest performance is just another testament to his toughness.

Defense saves the day, again

A win is a win, but Saturday’s win was not pretty, which is naturally indicative of a defensive win.

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Big picture, Kentucky limited the Missouri Tigers to just 232 yards of total offense, the third least amount allowed this season. This is even more impressive when you consider that the Wildcats did this without their defensive captains, Jacquez Jones and Deandre Square, but Trevin Wallace and D’Eryk Jackson stepped up in their place.

More specifically, the Wildcats were able to get pressure and push Missouri behind the line of scrimmage, recording two sacks and nine tackles for loss. This was paired with an impressive outing from the secondary, who contained Missouri’s two star receivers – Luther Burden and Dominic Lovett – to just 60 total receiving yards.

In such a close game, there is one key stat that we highlighted before the game. The Kentucky defense defended third down really well, as Missouri converted on just 15% of their third downs. Limiting their opportunities.

Breaking records

As mentioned before, Saturday’s performance wasn’t pretty but several Wildcats broke records and continued their climb up the program record books.

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Most notably, Dane Key broke the freshman touchdown record with a 9-yard reception in the first quarter, scoring his fourth of the season and passing Derek Abney (2000) and Tommy Cook (2001) who he was tied with. Key later added to that mark with his game winning reception, and will have three more regular season games and the Bowl to add to it.

Will Levis also moved up the record books, throwing for his 40th touchdown in just 21 games, moving to 5th all-time, passing Mike Hartline (38). Levis is the second fastest to reach that mark, behind Tim Couch, who did it in just 18 games.

Finally, Chris Rodriguez. The senior running back is still 563 rushing yards from becoming the program’s all time leading rusher. With just 4 games left to do so, it is far from a guarantee. However, Rodriguez could have the most 100-yard games in program history, needing only two more to pass Benny Snell (19) after recording his 18th 100-yard game on Saturday.


With a win over Missouri, the Wildcats will hope to turn that into two game win stream as they Vanderbilt next week. Building some confidence is much needed with Georgia coming to Lexington in two weeks.

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Kentucky Running Back, Dee Beckwith, Joins WWE NIL Program

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© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Some of the most athletic people in the world are professional wrestlers, and that level of athleticism is not found in abundance. This is why the WWE “Next in Line” program was created, a NIL program launched in December that serves to recruit and develop potential future WWE Superstars.

One of the most recent college athletes to be signed to such a deal is Kentucky football running back, Dee Beckwith, which was announced last week. Standing 6-foot-5, 235-pounds with a reported 4.5 40-yard dash time, he fits the mold of big and athletic.

Beckwith is not the only Wildcat in the program, as there are two others. UK women’s track and field hurdler Masai Russell was a part of the WWE’s first NIL class, and former Kentucky defensive lineman Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald signed with NXT, after a couple of tryouts with the WWE.

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The WWE NIL program is primarily used for a fast track to potentially signing with the WWE upon completion of the program. However, within that, the program gives athletes access to their training center in Orlando, where they provide guidance in brand building, media training, communications, live event promotion, creative writing, and community relations.

This is a unique opportunity for Beckwith, giving him another path as an athlete outside of football.

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UK Football Cancels Spring Game as New Turf Is Installed, Looking at Field Concepts

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Kentucky Football announced on Wednesday that there will be no spring game this offseason because as they are replacing the turf at Kroger Field. This would be the first time since 2015 that the field will be changing since originally switching from grass to turf.

The Spring Game cancellation can be bad news for a lot of fans looking to catch the football team and see what they are looking like before fall camp begins later his year.

The good news is that UK has announced that they are working on one and potentially two open practice opportunities for fans to attend from March 6th-April 8th, in light of the Spring Game being canceled. Also, this has allowed many fan-made concepts to be created, to see what Kroger Field’s new look can be imagined.

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Here are some field design concepts that people have created and shared on Twitter.

If UK wanted to throw it back to the 1980s, here’s a glimpse of what that would look like. It’s fair to say that the football stadium has transformed quite a bit.

The last design is likely what most Kentucky fans would be in favor of. Fans have missed the power K ever since it left the uniforms, and with throwback jerseys being so popular they have been pleading for throwback jerseys that incorporate it into the helmets.

The power K along with the state outline behind it would be an excellent addition, especially with how proud many of Kentucky’s residents are to call the state their home.

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While there are not a lot of details on what the new design may look like, it seems that the checkerboard may be no more in the end zones, according to the bid information.

There are many ideas for new turf designs and all fans should put their trust in the athletic department to make the best decision for the fanbase on this one. Let’s just hope there are no asymmetrical Kroger logos on the field (looking at you Rupp Arena and Central Bank).

It looks like some other enhancements are happening as well, and the players look excited about it!

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Kentucky Football’s Incoming Transfers Introduce Themselves

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On Wednesday, the media had a chance to talk to six out of the seven new transfers that transferred to Kentucky during winter break, with the exception being Jantzen Dunn (Ohio State). Each transfer is expected to come in and play significant roles, as they fill roster gaps.

With the influx of veteran talent to go alongside the young weapons that Kentucky displayed last season, the goal is to improve on an underwhelming 2022 season.

Let’s briefly look at what each player had to say in their introductory press conferences.

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Devin Leary

Committing to Kentucky in mid-December, Devin Leary has only been on campus for three weeks and is still rehabbing from his surgery for a torn pectoral muscle he suffered back in October. However, he is still trying to make an early impact on his new team.

“Really just being able to get around the guys and really just, you know, prove to them through my hard work, prove to them, you know, I’m eager to be here,” Devin Leary says during a media interview.

“I am very happy to be here, but at the same time, you know, it’s an honor and privilege to be here. I need to prove to them that I’m going to put in the work that it takes, you know, a lot of time and that I take it very serious, but at the same time it’s grabbing those guys on the side and, you know, diving into the playbook, doing extra film, and just really building that camaraderie, like right now.”

Spring practice starts in about a month and a half, so we will see if Leary will be fully healthy to go for spring ball, if not he should be fully healthy to start off the season in 2023.

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Ray Davis

In Liam Coen’s ‘re-introductory’ press conference, he talked about how important Chris Rodriguez and his ability to guarantee positive yardage has been to Kentucky. Now graduated, Coen and the program had to find another high talent back, which they found in the transfer portal.

Coming from Vanderbilt, new running back Ray Davis was tabbed as a four-star transfer and one of the best running backs in the portal. Kentucky will be Davis’ third stop in college football as he played at Temple University his freshman and sophomore years and most recently at the University of Vanderbilt for his junior and senior years.

One reason why Davis committed to Kentucky is he thinks UK was missing a few pieces towards the end of the year, that he thinks he can help with and get the Cats’ to compete in the SEC Championship

“Offensively, just knowing that they were missing just a few pieces once the season ended and I felt that, you know, if I come in and try to earn my spot, earn those reps, and try to get the starting job. I think I could help out the team and get us through that threshold of potentially competing for an SEC Championship,” Ray Davis says during a media interview.

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Tanner Bowles

Tanner Bowles was one of two offensive tackles that Kentucky landed in the transfer portal. Bowles, who is from Glasgow (KY), recently transferred from the University of Alabama to Lexington. In four seasons with the Crimson Tide (including a redshirt season), Bowles never became a starter, but appeared in all 12 games this season for one of the best offensive lines in the SEC.

“There’s a point in time, where you can lead with your words, but before that, you have to lead with your actions, so I think while I’m here right now, I don’t know when the time would be if I, you know, had a chance to lead with my words, but for now I am focused on, you know, just leading my actions, doing the little things right,” Tanner Bowles says during a media interview.

Marques Cox

Marques Cox was the second offensive tackle that Kentucky added from the transfer portal, coming from Northern Illinois University as a redshirt junior. Cox, like Devin Leary, suffered a season-ending foot injury, four games into the season when NIU faced off against UK.

As a proven veteran, Cox knows that the offensive line will have to improve this season, and he will bear much of that load. If they can succeed, Kentucky will be more capable of using their offensive weapons.

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“Just me and Tanner (Bowles) helping improve the offensive line and offense so they got weapons,” Marques Cox says during a media interview. “We got key players to do so, so it is just fixing everything.”

Keeshawn Silver

Now to the defensive side of the ball. One of Kentucky’s latest additions from the transfer portal was defensive tackle, Keeshawn Silver from North Carolina. Ranked as a five-star recruit in the 2021 class, the talent is there, but he could never get to a healthy playing weight at North Carolina.

One reason why Kentucky added him was due to Justin Rogers’s transferring to Auburn, leaving UK in need of another defensive lineman, which is where Silver comes in. Since arriving to campus, he feels like he has been able to build some great chemistry with his teammates.

“We talk daily, it’s really like the same things at Chapel Hill,” Keeshawn Silver says during a media interview. “I mean the guys, we bond together, have a good time, they like to have fun, I like to have fun.”

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JQ Hardaway

Finally, the last transfer that was interviewed was defensive back, JQ Hardaway, coming from Cincinnati. A native of Columbus, Georgia, Hardaway is “happy” to be in the SEC, a conference many poked fun at him for not joining out of high school.

The SEC is the highest level of football in the country, but Hardaway believes that he belongs and is confident in his skill set.

“I’m just a ballplayer, man, I feel like I am very confident in myself,” JQ Hardaway says during a media interview. “I like to have fun, I got kind of a swagger on the field, I would say. I’m just very comfortable, I feel like I can be myself, I don’t have to be anyone. I just kind of let my talent speak for itself.”

Over the last four seasons, Kentucky has sent three transfer corners to the NFL – Lonnie Johnson (Garden City CC), Kelvin Joseph (LSU), and Brandin Echols (Northwest Mississippi CC) – and Hardaway committed to Kentucky with that in mind. Will he be the next?

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Kentucky added some talented transfers this off-season and it will be interesting to see how they will have an impact on the team. Several questions should be answered over spring football, and hopefully, this group can help lead Kentucky to a better record in 2023.

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